KAMAISHI, 12 Oct - A preview of the Pool B match between Canada and Namibia, which kicks off at 12:15 on Sunday at Kamaishi Recovery Memorial Stadium.
The Big Picture
While Canada and Namibia have already failed to qualify for the quarter-finals, Sunday's encounter will largely dictate how they look back on their Rugby World Cup 2019 campaigns.
Both have suffered heavy defeats against New Zealand, South Africa and Italy, and this match is their only chance to leave Japan with a victory and a confidence boost going into the next four years.
If Namibia win, it will be their first victory after 22 lost matches at Rugby World Cups. They are one step down from Canada in the rankings, at 23, and have outperformed the Canucks so far in Japan, scoring more than double the points, with their 34 to Canada’s 14.
A Namibian victory is feasible if they can rediscover the form they showed in the first half of their match against New Zealand, above. The Namibians went toe-to-toe with the best team in the world for 30 minutes and if they can repeat that against Canada, that first win must surely be theirs.
"It’s not going to be a fancy game. It’s going to be very physical, very tough, but I believe this team has got the character for it," centre Darryl de la Harpe said. Referring to that elusive first win, he added: "If it happens – or when it happens – it will be life-changing for a lot of people."
Their tournament so far has been plagued with missed scoring opportunities and they have registered only two tries in three matches. Head coach Kingsley Jones has called on his most experienced players and is bracing for a physical match in Kamaishi.
"They're a very capable side and they performed really well," Jones said of Namibia.
"They could perform really well against all of those big teams for long periods. New Zealand had to score some wonder tries to get the score they did. They're well organised. They want to play fast and they're physical, so it's a big challenge for us.
"The mental challenge for us has been to step up and continue a lot of our good stuff into this game for longer periods."
Form guide (most recent matches first)
Played 2 - Canada 2W - Namibia 0W - Drawn 0.
In the spotlight
The match is likely to be the last chance for Canada's star winger DTH van der Merwe to become one of five players to score at least one try in four different Rugby World Cups.
The 33-year-old father of three has started in every match for Canada in Japan. He made history earlier this week when he became the Canadian with the most RWC appearances, with 15 matches going back to 2007, but his presence on the pitch has not been reflected on the scoresheet.
A fumble against South Africa cost him the chance to join the exclusive club of four-tournament try-scorers Gareth Thomas of Wales, Samoa's Brian Lima, Australia's Adam Ashley-Cooper and Ireland's Brian O'Driscoll at what he has hinted will be his last Rugby World Cup.
Both teams are banking on their most experienced players to win this final match.
Namibia coach Phil Davies has opted to field 33-year-olds De la Harpe and Eugene Jantjies in his backline. Centre De la Harpe is due to pick up his 51st cap and Jantjies, a veteran of four Rugby World Cups, starts at scrum-half ahead of Damian Stevens. Captain Johan Deysel moves to outside centre after sustaining a minor shoulder injury against New Zealand.
For Canada coach Jones brings in Gordon McRorie, Djustice Sears-Duru, Eric Howard, Conor Keys and Patrick Parfrey to the starting side.
The match against South Africa on Tuesday put a dent in Canada's second row with Mike Sheppard out with concussion symptoms and Josh Larsen receiving a red card. The double blow left the Canadian squad scrambling for replacements and Dustin Dobravsky flew in to Japan on Wednesday.
He is among the replacements in the match against Namibia, but given Jones’s tendency to use all his bench, there is a good chance Dobravsky will see some action.
Stats and trivia
The only other encounter between these countries was at RWC 1999. Canada won 72-11, their biggest World Cup victory to date.
Canada have lost only three of their 12 matches against Tier 2 sides at the Rugby World Cup (W7, D2, L3)
Eugene Jantjies has been on the losing side in all 14 of his appearances at the World Cup, beating the previous tournament record of 13 by Romania's Ovidiu Tonita.
Namibia flanker Prince Gaoseb, 21, has made the tournament's most tackles in one match with 25 against New Zealand, level with Wales's Alun Wyn Jones and Georgia's Beka Gorgadze (both against Australia).
"All I’m thinking about is getting the win. I don’t care how. If it’s the last kick, if it’s 50-odd points, I don’t care." - Namibia centre De La Harpe.
"It's a game where we're in a position that we're not overly used to lately as being the favourites or, in our mind, being on par with this team. It's an exciting opportunity and it is our last chance to get a win and definitely our best chance, so we're looking forward to it." - Canada captain Tyler Ardron.